In civilian life, Ross was appointed Analyst to the Borough of Burnley, a position he held at the outbreak of war in August 1914. As a former army officer, his offer to assist in the raising of a local battalion would have been gladly accepted and, on 10th September, Ross was appointed Captain in the Accrington Battalion of the East Lancashire Regt. Over the following fortnight he and Henry Davison Riley raised a company of 250 men from the Burnley area, which Ross was duly appointed to command on 24th September.
Above: Burnley Company officers in 1914. Left to right: Raymond St. George Ross, John Victor Kershaw, Frederick Arnold Heys, Henry Davison Riley. Photograph courtesy of Nelly and Jacquie Ainslie.
Ross proved to be a popular and capable company commander, gaining promotion to Major in January 1915 and earning the honour of being recommended by his commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Arthur Rickman, for command of the 12th (Reserve) Bn., East Lancashire Regt. in September 1915. (In the event, a rival claim to the post by Major George Slinger ensured that neither officer was appointed.) His sense of humour was remembered by a Burnley company man, Fred Sayer, writing of the first delivery of mail to the battalion after arriving at billets in Huppy, France in March 1916:
"Suddenly, roars of laughter came from Major Ross, "Z" Company C.O. and he had a very infectious laugh. I was near him and between his laughs "Ha, ha, Sayer, look at this!" In seconds we all surrounded him and he turned over the pages of the first "Bairnsfather" cartoons. It was hilarious...We all enjoyed the artistic interlude, but most of all Major Ross, the father of our large family, getting for once on equal terms with the "lads". Tears rolled down his face, as he continually lost and wiped his monocle."
In May 1916, aged 52, Ross relinquished command of "Z" (Burnley) Company on being appointed 31st Divisional Anti-Gas Officer. Following the disaster that befell the Accrington Pals on 1st July 1916, Ross returned to help sort out the belongings of the dead. The anguish that he felt at the loss of so many his Burnley lads can only be imagined. On 6th July he returned to England suffering from fatigue and neurasthenia brought on by stress.
After hospitalization and leave, Ross joined the 3rd (Reserve) Bn., East Lancashire Regt. at Plymouth on 2nd September 1916. Although he longed to return to a more active role (and applied for a posting to the American Army as Anti-Gas Officer) he was judged medically fit only for service at Home. In February 1918 he made a vigorous and successful protest against a proposal to retire him, but the final year of the war brought a bitter blow with news of the death in action of his eldest son, Lt. Raymond Glenara Ross, on 4th April 1918.
Ross returned to his post as Burnley Analyst on being demobilized in April 1919. He was an excellent amateur flautist and, later in life when living at Worcester, was a stalwart of the local orchestras in which he played alongside the composer Edward Elgar. For a time, Ross was Honorary Treasurer of the Worcester Orchestral Society. He was also a singer, and a member of the local drama society.
Raymond St. George Ross died aged 80 at Hoylake on 25th May 1944.
© Andrew C Jackson 2001-2010
Compiled from TNA document WO339/16465, "Solidus" by Fred Sayer, and with the kind help of Nelly & Jacquie Ainslie and Martin Bird.